No question, behavior that might not be illegal or unethical can still render damage to a society. The residue of lead paint dating back to the early and mid 20th century (yeah, that long ago) when such a substance was legal and produced and promoted according to standard business practice has presented a potential health hazard. Agreed. But is the cost of all the litigation to remedy all that, especially in Rhode Island (RI), just too much? The irony is that a low-cost remedy already exists.
In his column in Overlawyered.com, Walter Olson refers to such pursuits via lawsuits as "the utopia of the litigator" and expensive. The point is obvious: Creating litigation to pursue industries, ranging from the former lead paint to the current fast foods, might cost more than the alleged damage being done. Another obvious point is that the activities of those industries are legal and, yeah, comply with standard business practices.
Olson links with R.J. Lehmann's blog which adds up the supposed harms to society from the long list of those baddies. Those alleged costs would, concludes Lehmann, significantly exceed the amount of money that exists.
A cost-efficient solution to the residue of lead paint in RI residences would be to aggressively enforce the laws on the books. The RI Department of Health knows and posts on its website the addresses of the buildings with lead paint that hasn't been abated by the landlords. During the RI lead paint trial II we saw those addresses. We heard in detail about the laws that exist to force those landlords into compliance. We also heard that that enforcement wasn't taking place.
Are the designated baddies really the miscreants or are the lawyers proposing grandiose legal remedies the actual folks to watch?